Palm Winter 2009 : Page 8

ato palm feature without the plaStic a gift card. . . Alumnus’ startup company off to fast start SOMetiMeS the MOSt interesting ideas are formed from the most benign environments. Sitting in a sustainable supply chain class at Michigan State University, Sam Hogg received a project to identify and improve an inefficient supply chain. Fresh from holiday break, laden with plastic gift cards, the idea just hit him. “We put together a team to investigate gift cards,” said Hogg. “We discovered they were nothing more than alphanumeric codes entered online or read by a scanner in a store. The plastic card was just for show.” A little more digging uncovered that most stores web sites made it difficult to locate eGift cards. Further research showed that 84 percent of people would prefer to send and receive gift cards electronically but nearly all gift car sales occur in stores. “There was a bad shopping infrastructure,” said Hogg. “Nothing online offered the selection, speed, and convenience of the kiosk.” Enter GiftZip.com. Hogg, a 2003 initiate and 8 former chapter president at Albion College, took his class project and has transformed it into a hot entrepreneurial story. “It’s been very challenging but fun,” said Hogg. “A lot of Internet ato palm winter 2009 startups are just good ideas that never really become great businesses. Facebook had its first profitable quarter five years after the company started . . . we could clear that hurdle in under a year.” The 26-year-old Founder of GiftZip.com says that his experience as a chapter president helped prepare him for running the startup business.”It really teaches you how to run a business amongst chaos,” he said. “I managed a $250,000 budget and an organization of 50-plus when I was 21. I had no clue what I was doing but I just figured it out. The same applies to GiftZip.com.” Hogg has seen a swell of interest in the GiftZip.com story, especially through the holiday season. The business began last summer and has been featured in Entrepreneur magazine, received a sponsorship from the Detroit Economic Club to exhibit at the National Summit’s Innovation Exposition, has been featured in DBusiness magazine, the Albion College alumni magazine and was awarded at Business Review’s Innovation Michigan awards event. “GiftZip.com has benefited from being fresh and a good story. It is a cool eco-friendly concept, it is totally free for everyone to use, and it was started and is currently run by a bunch of college students,” said Hogg. “Our media attention has been organically generated for the most part. I compare it to when other free Internet tools were launched like Kayak.com, Fatwallet.com, etc. Free, useful stuff usually has no problem getting attention.” How does it work? GiftZip.com partners with retailers to provide the end-user quick access to the eGift cards. An end-user goes to GiftZip.com, selects the retailer they would like an eGift card to, and is then directed to the eGift card section of that retailer’s site. The cards are then e-mailed to the purchaser, or the intended recipient, and can be saved in e-mail inboxes and reprinted in the event one is ever lost. No personal information is collected and there are no fees to use the service. The business makes money by charging the retailers for referring highly valued shoppers to them. “Retailers love our referrals because you don’t go to GiftZip.com unless you have already decided to buy an eGift card,” said Hogg. A former ATO National Board of Directors member, Hogg says that the ATO connection keeps playing a role in his life. “ATO is a lifelong deal and anyone who doesn’t see it that way is missing out on belonging to a strong network of really great people,” he said. “I get calls weekly from brothers who are actively incorporating GiftZip.com into their personal and business lives . . . everything from getting the message out to buying thousands of dollars in gift cards by referring their corporate human resources department.” With the economy in such an unstable position, it may be a bit of a risky move to jump into starting a brand new business. Not so, says Hogg. “It’s no more risky than relying on someone to pay you. I have no problem plunging money into GiftZip.com versus investing in the stock market right now. At least I have a little control in the outcome.” “GiftZip.com only became real because it went from idea to paper to spreadsheet to Web site,” said Hogg. “So many great ideas get squashed because the founder thinks too much and does too little.” 

A Gift Card... Without The Plastic

Sometimes the Most <br /> <br /> interesting ideas are formed from the most benign environments.<br /> <br /> Sitting in a sustainable supply chain class at Michigan State University, Sam Hogg received a project to identify and improve an inefficient supply chain. Fresh from holiday break, laden with plastic gift cards, the idea just hit him. “We put together a team to investigate gift cards,” said Hogg. “We discovered they were nothing more than alphanumeric codes entered online or read by a scanner in a store. The plastic card was just for show.” <br /> <br /> A little more digging uncovered that most stores web sites made it difficult to locate eGift cards. Further research showed that 84 percent of people would prefer to send and receive gift cards electronically but nearly all gift car sales occur in stores. “There was a bad shopping infrastructure,” said Hogg. “Nothing online offered the selection, speed, and convenience of the kiosk.”<br /> <br /> Enter GiftZip.com.<br /> <br /> Hogg, a 2003 initiate and former chapter president at Albion College, took his class project and has transformed it into a hot entrepreneurial story. “It’s been very challenging but fun,” said Hogg. “A lot of Internet startups are just good ideas that never really become great businesses. Facebook had its first profitable quarter five years after the company started . . . We could clear that hurdle in under a year.” <br /> <br /> The 26-year-old Founder of GiftZip.com says that his experience as a chapter president helped prepare him for running the startup business.”It really teaches you how to run a business amongst chaos,” he said. “I managed a $250,000 budget and an organization of 50-plus when I was 21. I had no clue what I was doing but I just figured it out. The same applies to GiftZip.com.” <br /> <br /> Hogg has seen a swell of interest in the GiftZip.com story, especially through the holiday season. The business began last summer and has been featured in Entrepreneur magazine, received a sponsorship from the Detroit Economic Club to exhibit at the National Summit’s Innovation Exposition, has been featured in Dbusiness magazine, the Albion College alumni magazine and was awarded at Business Review’s Innovation Michigan awards event.<br /> <br /> “GiftZip.com has benefited from being fresh and a good story. It is a cool eco-friendly concept, it is totally free for everyone to use, and it was started and is currently run by a bunch of college students,” said Hogg. “Our media attention has been organically generated for the most part. I compare it to when other free Internet tools were launched like Kayak.com, Fatwallet.com, etc. Free, useful stuff usually has no problem getting attention.” <br /> <br /> How does it work? GiftZip.com partners with retailers to provide the end-user quick access to the eGift cards. An end-user goes to GiftZip.com, selects the retailer they would like an eGift card to, and is then directed to the eGift card section of that retailer’s site. The cards are then e-mailed to the purchaser, or the intended recipient, and can be saved in e-mail inboxes and reprinted in the event one is ever lost.<br /> <br /> No personal information is collected and there are no fees to use the service. The business makes money by charging the retailers for referring highly valued shoppers to them. “Retailers love our referrals because you don’t go to GiftZip.com unless you have already decided to buy an eGift card,” said Hogg.<br /> <br /> A former ATO National Board of Directors member, Hogg says that the ATO connection keeps playing a role in his life. “ATO is a lifelong deal and anyone who doesn’t see it that way is missing out on belonging to a strong network of really great people,” he said. “I get calls weekly from brothers who are actively incorporating GiftZip.com into their personal and business lives . . . Everything from getting the message out to buying thousands of dollars in gift cards by referring their corporate human resources department.” <br /> <br /> With the economy in such an unstable position, it may be a bit of a risky move to jump into starting a brand new business. Not so, says Hogg. “It’s no more risky than relying on someone to pay you. I have no problem plunging money into GiftZip.com versus investing in the stock market right now. At least I have a little control in the outcome.” <br /> <br /> “GiftZip.com only became real because it went from idea to paper to spreadsheet to Web site,” said Hogg. “So many great ideas get squashed because the founder thinks too much and does too little.”<br /> <br />

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